Valuing Value

Group lunch Chmielnik.jpg

A friend of mine read a blog post about choosing three words to be guideposts for 2018. I have chosen Nourish, Write and Value. I want to speak to Value here.

It’s important to me to be valued and to bring value to the world. I have found my calling in bringing people to Poland and showing them the different ways that Jewish History is being taught, remembered and commemorated. I bring value by serving as a bridge between countries, generations, religions, identities and world views. I see the value that I bring and people tell me about it too. When a student on a Bridge To Poland trip sees the work of remembrance being done at Brama Grodzka in Lublin, Poland and says, “We have to do something about Muslim refugees!” I feel the trip I have put together has value. When an adult trip participant says that before she came on the trip she wondered why “the Poles” did not do more to help the Jews, but after the trip she saw how demoralized the population was and started to put herself in the other person’s shoes, I feel like I have crafted something of value.

When a Polish woman talks to me about her ambivalence about a newly discovered Jewish past and says somehow I am the only one she can talk to about it, I feel I have value.

And yet despite all these moments of knowing my value, of feeling deeply that I am doing the work I was meant to do of healing historical wounds, fighting stereotypes, working on the border of identity with an open mind and heart, I still doubt myself. I am hard on myself. I have a fierce inner critic. She is ruthless and mean and she knows how to tear me down and tell me I am not worthy.

So, I have started (today!) keeping a value journal. I am writing in it how I am intrinsically valuable, the value I bring to others and the nice things others say about me. If you know me, whether personally or professionally and have something nice to say, either small or big, please let me know! I’m going to collect the nice things people say and read them when that inner critic rears her ugly head. And I encourage you to do the same with the others in your life. Life’s too short not to express our appreciation for each other.

Here are some of my appreciations:

My mother taught me to always include people. When women became widows or got divorced she still invited them to dinner parties. She brought soup to people who were sick. I think she learned that from my grandmother who was known for her good works.

What I loved in my father was his curiosity about EVERYTHING, his love for languages and his desire and ability to talk to everyone. Also, he was a great storyteller.

My parents both taught me never to break a promise.

My brother is a real mensch–visits people in the hospital and he is brilliant and creative.

I value my sons first and foremost for being decent human beings who treat others with kindness, especially old people. And they are hysterically funny to boot.

I was going to try to write about my friends too but that was too much for a blog post. Let’s just say I am lucky to have great ones in the U.S., Israel, the UK, Spain, Lithuania, a few scattered elsewhere and of course my dear ones in Poland. It is these friends who make it possible to withstand the harsh  critics, both inner and outer; it is these friends who, with compassion, wisdom and humor, prop me up when I am low. I encourage all of us to reach out to those whom we value and tell them so.